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May 9, 2010 04:46 PM

Josselin's Tapas Bar and Grill....good news for Kauai foodies.

I am happy to report that Jean Marie Josselin of "A Pacific Cafe" fame is back in business on Kauai. He has opened "Josselin's Tapas Bar and Grill.

I am an old "A Pacific Cafe" fan, so I was happy when he returned to Kauai.

The new restaurant is in Poipu, at the Kikui'ula shopping center. It is right across the sidewalk from the recently opened Merriman's.

As always, Jean Marie has done it right and done it well. The ambience and decor is very relaxing. There is a bar with seating, and the kitchen is visible from the restaurant seating. The menu is tapas, with some one or two menu items a nod to the signature dishes of "A Pacific Cafe".

We went opening night, and returned for a second time this past friday night.

I have to say everything was perfect. The waitstaff were professional and attentive. Right after seating a "lagniappe" taste appeared at the table. Drink orders were taken and filled very quickly. There is a roving Sangria cart, where glasses of a fresh Sangria were served. There is a white wine Sangria which is based on Pinot Grigio wine with Lychees, and a red wine based Sangria seasoned with tropical fruits. The drinks and the decor were a refreshing welcome to the restaurant.

With a table full of 6 diners on the first night, and 4 diners on the second night, we were able to get through a lot of the menu items. I am happy to say that as he has done in the past, the menu changes from night to night.

Everything on the menu was excellent. Just to recall some of the dishes, there was a Firecracker Salmon Roll, (an of A Pacific Cafe dish), scallop pillows...a scallop ravioli with coconut milk sauce, a beef cheek ravioli, steamed ono, a roasted chicken dish, a plancha steak, braised short ribs provencal, a chorizo stuffed pork roast, a slow braised pork belly with asian pear kimchee, and another nod to A Pacific Cafe...his sesame crusted wok cooked mahi mahi with buerre blanc sauce. There was a wonderful seared scallop dish served vietnamese style with a caramel sauce.

Every dish was presented beautifully, and perfectly done. The staff was wonderfully attentive throughout the dinner. Unlike other name restaurants, the owner and chef, Jean Marie Josselin is behind the stove every night, with the food and presentation to his standards.

I cant say enough about how nice it is to have Jean Marie Josselin back on Kauai and behind the stove. A long culinary dry spell on Kauai has finally been broken.

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  1. Thanks for the review, Wabi. I'll be vacationing there next week and am eager to check it out. I too thought that A Pacific Cafe was the best restaurant on Kauai and was really disappointed when it closed down years back. I searched for Jean Marie Josselin last month and read about his upcoming restaurant. Glad to hear he's back in style on Kauai. I'll let you know what I think.

    2 Replies
    1. re: barrysentials

      I'm happy to report that my wife and I had a wonderful dining experience at Josselin's Tapas Bar and Grill a few days ago. The food was some of the most memorable that we've ever eaten. I was a big fan of A Pacific Cafe and sorely missed that restaurant after it closed. Now I'm glad to say that Josselin is back in a big way!

      He wasn't in the kitchen on Friday, but his restaurant was humming along. They have lots of service staff -- I counted over a dozen orange-clad servers scurrying about. It seems like you need that many with tapas because there's a lot of orders being delivered. Our waiter was Jason and he was professional and accomodating, never trying to hurry us.

      I started out with one of the sangrias -- they come around with a cart to make it tableside. They have a white lychee version and two reds. I went with one of the reds that was made with pomegranite juice, cabernet, passion rum, and a bit of orange, apple and strawberry. Now I'm not one to generally drink sangria -- I like fine wine and sangrias are usually sweet and crappy tasting -- but this one was really enjoyable and wasn't sweet or alcoholic and nicely balanced the cabernet. It went really well with the dishes, too. I suggested that my wife order a glass of French Rose (she was iffy about it) and Jason came back with a little carafe and poured a taste for her. She didn't like it -- tho I thought it was nice -- and ordered an Acacia Pinot Noir instead. They didn't charge us for the rose. That was a nice way for them to handle it, since they didn't have to use up a whole glass of wine and throw it away.

      Now, for the food. The menu is broken up into 5 sections, with half of the 35 or so dishes being smaller plates and priced under $12. We started with a very nice dish of scallop pillows (like ravioli) in a cardamom coconut broth, galangal and drunken grapes ($8). Our second dish was right out A Pacific Cafe--tempura ahi in soy ginger beurre blanc ($8). This was terrific. A very large piece of ahi with a little rice wrapped in a roll, fried like tempura so the ahi is barely seared, cut into five large pieces and served on a wonderful sauce. Highly recommended.

      Our third dish was truly unique and memorable -- coffee smoked pork tonkatsu, banana crispy bao, buttermilk bbq dressing ($9). The coffee flavored pork was a new taste sensation for us that worked perfectly. It was served on top of the bao, which was like a flaky pastry filled with banana flavoring. A great combination together. Each of us had about 5 or 6 bites of this and could have enjoyed one more of this. The bread service was a little late, but they did serve this small, spicy, curry-flavored muffins that were delicious. Our next dish came from the wood-burning oven -- amber roasted organic vegetables, walnut risotto ($10). This was also very tasty and well made. The baby carrots were still crispy, along with onion, artichoke and mushroom on some delicious risotto. This was a pretty sizable portion, which was great because we loved it.

      For our fifth dish, we ordered off the right side of the menu which are larger plates. We went with the garlic sesame crusted island mahi-mahi, lime ginger beurre blanc sauce. This is a dish I ordered many times at A Pacific Cafe and the Beach House and have always enjoyed. At Josselin's, the dish is the same, only the portion is smaller. But then again it only costs $17. My wife had never had this dish before and she flipped out over the sauce, which is divine. If you've never had this dish, order it!

      I was still a bit hungry, so we ordered one more dish -- wood oven roasted NY steak, napa cabbage citrus salad ($11.50). My first thought tasting this was "good," but as I kept eating it, I kept enjoying it more and more. The NY was cooked perfectly and the citrus and cabbage complemented it very well. Kind of like a thai beef salad but without the spice. And the portion was great -- it had to have been about 5-6 ounces of steak.

      We passed on desserts. They had 5 that didn't look all that special. Plus we had eaten gelatto and sorbetto at Papalani Gelato in the Poipu mall (don't miss this place!) a few hours earlier. Overall, I have to rate Josselin's Tapas Bar and Grill as one of the very best meals I've eaten in Hawaii and a definite must-go for all foodies coming to Kauai.

      Papalani Gelato
      2360 Kiahuana Plantation Road Koloa, Kauai, HI

      Beach House Restaurant
      5022 Lawai Rd, Koloa, HI 96756

      1. re: barrysentials

        Barrysentials: "He [Jean-Marie] wasn't in the kitchen on Friday..."

        That was the problem with A Pacific Cafe.

        If you like his dishes, he used to have a cookbook available. I don't know if it's still in print.

    2. Wonderful report and wonderful news. When we were last on Kaua`i, there was talk. People pointed to a property in Kapa`a, but there was no construction work in evidence.

      Now, I know why - Poipou.

      Being a great fan of A Pacific Cafe too, I look forward to our next trip over.



      3 Replies
      1. re: Bill Hunt

        Ditto. I was actually even worried as the Poipu spot seemed to take forever to get to opening. Jean Marie is one of my favorite chefs, and I love french technique applied to Pacific rim food. I never went to Kauai without at least one visit to APC, including a great tasting menu on our honeymoon. It was a bummer to see him go through a dormant stretch, but great to see him back in Kauai. Even better to see the Wok-charred Mahi on the menu. We've "stolen" the dish for home, but still can't match his.
        Slightly related, if you're into cookbooks he has one called Taste of Hawaii which is good. Even better is one featuring almost all the older Hawaii chefs, called Great Chefs Hawaii.

        1. re: Bill Hunt

          Bill, I thought of you immediately when I was at Josselin's last night. (Not that I know you but I remember reading your posts!) It is a great experience all around with excellent food and service and anyone who has been missing this type of restaurant experience will be thrilled it is here.

          Just had that great lunch at the Jean Georges flagship under the Trump Tower in Manhattan a few weeks ago and the experience is comparable. Didn't see the wine list at Josselins- just had the lycee sangria (lychee season is on right now) from the gal with the cart-that is a fun experience.

          The only miss on the food was the top tier pupu on the three pupu platter (a seared ahi roll thing where the ahi just seemed a little mealy) but the sauce on the pork ravioli thing was finger-licking, the pork belly was marvelous (I want more of those kimchee pears!), the onion flan lovely, the blue cheese souffle ono and for some reason I was totally infatuated with the cherries that accompanied the flourless chocolate cake with a not very minty but very good ice cream with bits of almond.

          I don't mean this in a bad way, but I felt like I was in a big city again :)
          And you don't need to leave Kauai and it wasn't even that expensive (as these things go). I still love the Beach House's atmosphere for it's Hawaii-ness and Red Salt gave the Soho in Kauai vibe it's first showing, but I think I have a new fave. I'll bet soon you won't be able to walk in without a reservation like we did at 6:30 on a Friday night once the tourists all find out about it and start making reservations a million weeks in advance. Tant pis!

          1. re: island2island

            I am blushing, and am not worthy!

            I am just glad to hear great things (tiny mis-step with the ahi), as we hope to get back to Kaua`i next year, as soon as we make up for a canceled trip to O`ahu, both the North Shore and Waikiki.

            Thank you for the review. I still have wonderful memories of our first time at A Pacific Cafe. All trips were wonderful, but that first time left me with several great stories.



        2. Disappointing first visit to Josselin’s last night. The space is beautiful, but the enthusiasm of our server and efficiency of the kitchen led to a rushed meal. The two of us were the second party seated that evening, so there didn’t seem to be a need for our dinner to be hurried. We shared 5 dishes ---- organic beet salad with goat cheese fritter; shrimp & duck tacos; crispy octopus with green papaya salad, Kaua’I corn tortilla soup, and 36 hr. braised pork belly with kimchi pears, pureed eggplant, and roasted eggplant slices. All dishes were well-prepared, but somewhat lacking in flavor. The pork belly was two gorgeous slabs of lean belly, but they didn’t have much taste. The green papaya salad and kimchee pears were the best things we had.

          Our server seem surprised when we gave up after only 5 dishes, but, because she was encouraging us to order regularly, and our orders were being brought to us almost as soon as they were placed, we ended up consuming 2 sangrias, our 5 dishes, and a 3 glass wine flight each in less than an hour. On top of that, the buspersons were equally enthusiastic in wanting to clear our plates from the table, asking us regularly if we were still working on a given plate.

          On our way out, we saw a table for 10 and a table for 14 set and waiting for diners, so the kitchen may have been trying to be ready for their arrival. We’re gonna be on the island for quite awhile, so we’ll be going back. Love the concept, the space, and the menu. We’ll set a different pace next time, knowing now how efficient the kitchen is.

          4 Replies
          1. re: beantowntitletown

            I finally got over there myself a few weeks ago and I didn't love it either. I was coming in after a few pau hana drinks, so that might have affected things a bit. If anything, I really liked the garnishes/sides more than the main meal (case in point, I ate all of my table's kimchi pears but none of us liked the pork belly, which was way over hyped by the server). I really liked the beet salad. Did not care of the oxtail gyoza/dumplings at all, but this was well received with my party. None of us liked the decomposed crab roll (forget the actual title), which came presented on dry ice. It was really overly sweet and none of us touched it. The hamachi kama was overcooked. The ono was kind of bland but cooked perfectly (ono dries out really quickly, so cooking commercially can be tricky) and the accompanying risotto was good. We had a round of desserts and I loved the buttermilk panna cotta. It was my favorite thing of the whole night and generally speaking I'm not a dessert person.

            I'll go back because inevitably someone will invite me to go there and I would like to go again. Service was good but I know quite a few employees, so of course I'm going to have good service. Again, I think that my being a few sheets to the wind may have impaired my judgment, as well as the discerning company that I was with that night. Generally speaking, this is a very well received restaurant and it's much needed in Kauai.

            1. re: Mag454

              At least you remembered what happened after pau hana. Sometimes I need help filling in the blanks.

            2. re: beantowntitletown

              That saddens me. In many ways. Chef Josselin's kitchen used to "get it," and they show it. Now, maybe things have changed, but not for the better.

              Hope that the next visit is more enjoyable.


              1. re: beantowntitletown

                Happy to report that our second visit on Saturday night was way mo bettah than the first. Service was excellent, the food was excellent, and we had a great time. We were seated in a comfortable booth with a view of the kitchen, where Chef Josselin was really busy, at about 7:30. The restaurant was almost full, and because of the plentiful hard surfaces in the dining room, the noise level was high. This time, when our server asked for our order, we told him we’d like to start the 3 glass wine flight after finishing our martinis and order a couple of dishes at a time to accompany each glass of wine. Not only did he get that, but he appeared at the table at just the right time to take our wine and food orders when we were close to done with the previous food and wine, and made sure that wine and food arrived together.

                We started with chicken wing wontons and seared diver scallops and sparkling wine. The four, square fried wontons were more like mini egg rolls, nicely crispy with a minced chicken filling, resting on a kimchi flavored chicken jus with tiny cubes of Cabrales cheese sprinkled around. Good flavors, but the filling was somewhat dry and could have used a jolt of spiciness. The diver scallops were the best I’ve tasted in a long time; very sweet, perfectly seared, with a nice counterpoint of small bacon bits, greens, and bacon vinaigrette. Next was roasted shrimp, roasted artichoke heart, and sauvignon blanc. The four shrimp were plump, succulent, well-flavored, and well cooked. The artichoke heart was cut into five sections laid out in a line on top of fennel puree with a goat cheese stuffed profiterole at each end, another excellent dish. Our final pairing was pinot noir and the pork belly that we didn’t like the last visit. It was really good this time --- moist, flavorful, with a good seared crust. Dessert was the lilikoi cheesecake on a macadamia crust served with diced lilikoi marinated strawberries in a thin chocolate bowl. Small portion, but delicious.

                The only negative was the noise level, but it wasn’t a big deal for us. When we left at around 9:30, the restaurant was still pretty full, whereas Merriman’s across the way was almost deserted. Hope to go back again before we leave the island. Pics of Sat. night’s menu attached.

              2. we were also just at Josselin's a couple of days ago. Five of us. We had a very good meal, not outstanding, though some dishes were, but overall good.

                We also focused on the smaller plates and some were excellent. The tonkatsu pork, marinated in coffee was great. Ditto the ahi roll; really good. The ahi sampler also was excellent. Some of the salad type dishes were just Ok. The larger plate of fish was over cooked. The sangria cart is a good idea. The sangria was good and they pour a large glass.

                The place was packed so reservations really are recommended. Our server, Sherri, was very nice. Yet, as with other places on the island, service overall could improve in terms of anticipating diner needs and bringing requested items.

                In short, the restaurant is a very good addition to the area. According to the servers they have been mostly packed since they opened.

                6 Replies
                1. re: comiendosiempre

                  "Yet, as with other places on the island, service overall could improve in terms of anticipating diner needs and bringing requested items."

                  I do agree, but feel compelled to add that with A Pacific Cafe, the staff always was at the top of their game for us. Even the hostess was excellent (and that is hard to come by nowadays). Sorry to hear that the "finely tuned service machine" is not in place there. I would only hope that things do improve.

                  Not all restauranteurs understand how the FOH can impact the overall dining experience. I thought that Chef Josselin did, but then his role might be more as a consultant, or he's been focusing on other projects? A Pacific Cafe did not happen by accident, or if it did, what a lucky accident.

                  Mahalo for the report. We hope to get by next year.


                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    Well one thing that also drove APC was the corp. executive chef George Gomes, a star in his own right. Have been seeing the previews of menu items for the new Roy's Tavern at Princeville and it looks like a winner. Unfortunately I never seem to make it to Kaua'i.

                    1. re: manomin

                      Considering the apparent dearth of fine-dining in the Princeville area, that sound very good. Maybe at last, great restaurant food will arrive on Kaua`i's North Shore.



                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        Bill - they even put in their own farm on the property as well! So things will be really fresh! Like I said I've
                        been seeing the menu previews and it will be great comfort food as conceived by Jackie herself the chef you always enjoyed at Waikoloa when she was there.

                        1. re: manomin

                          I guess having an on-site farm is the new thing to do? 22 North, which I really like, has a pretty big farm on property and offers a locavore menu. They even make their own glasses out of wine bottles!

                          I wonder if Roy's Tavern is open yet. Too bad I never seem to make it up to the North shore...that ride is just too much for me!!! Maybe I can be convinced to go, though...